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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

SEO Library Database

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, February 5, 2012

Our library database is growing again, as three new libraries are joining the SEO Library System.


The system will now contain over 80 library systems with 270 branch libraries throughout Ohio, all collaborating to provide a library collection of over 6 million items.


You may remember that our library system was one of the first four libraries to connect to the SEO system, way back in 1988.


Libraries joining to share their collections are now commonplace around the U.S., given the vast array of information and sources that the public demands.


The latest additions to the SEO System are three small libraries that will be closing down their individual computer systems to join the shared system available with SEO.


That means that records in our system will appear to have no holdings, but actually those are the new libraries bar coding their collections for future usage by everyone.


No single library owns everything in their collection to satisfy the requests of its customers.


Even the Library of Congress has a Department of Interlibrary Loan to find and borrow books for researchers using the LC facilities and find that they don’t own something.


At one time, the request for an “Interlibrary Loan” meant that a librarian would load the 4-part carbon form into a manual typewriter and bang out the information using a sharp type to print all of the forms.


Then, we mailed the form to a central library processing center, where they could determine which library owned such a book.


The process could take 4-8 weeks depending on where the book resided, and how long shipping might take to bring the book to the requestor.


Today, the user can request materials from the SEO System by using the online system from home, and the request advises the owning library to send the book.


Another system goes beyond the SEO System, and looks for materials worldwide.


Loaning and borrowing is a 2-way street, as I received a request from the Beaverton City Library in Oregon for a book in our collection about “Ancient Israel.”


Actually, it was in our storage stacks at our Tiltonsville Branch, and is evidently not a common item in library collections.


Some requests require some detective work, especially requests for books published with a restricted initial distribution.  Some companies want to avoid library sales so as to promote increased private sales of their books.


Other books may be promoted pre-publication, and are then cancelled due to finances or lack of interest.


We also use Interlibrary Loan as an indicator of demand or interest in a particular title.  If someone went to the effort of asking for it, perhaps there is a demand and we can add it to the system.


The Internet has greatly enhanced the search for book titles by accessing the offerings of bookstores and publishers across the nation.


Library users seem fascinated when they find out where their borrowed book came from and the same when we send a book to another library.


One of our branch libraries was fascinated by something that arrived from the Edgerton Branch Library in western Ohio.  I explained that the village was so-named since it was on the “edge” of Ohio bordering Indiana.


The reverse happened when Edgerton received a book from our Brilliant Branch Library, and they called for the history behind the name of the community.


Borrowing something from another library becomes a geography lesson.